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As we come in to the busy holiday shopping season, we’re pleased to share some thoughts from Boston-based founder and friend of Startup Stir, Ross Beyeler of Growth Spark, an eCommerce strategy, design and development firm.
This article originally appeared on TotalRetail, and is republished here with the author’s permission.
If you want to improve the profitability of your e-commerce website, there are really only four numbers that matter:
- How many people are coming to your website?
- How many visitors actually make a purchase?
- How much are customers purchasing?
- How big are your margins per order?
Each of these four areas has their laundry-list of strategies and tactics that can help improve performance. In this article specifically, we’re going to focus on the question ‘how many visitors actually make a purchase’ or the idea of ‘conversion’. It’s safe to assume that most e-commerce companies would like to see their conversion rates increase. According to research done by Smart Insights, site-wide conversion rates for new visitors to an ecommerce website averaged 2.11% in Q4 of 2013. This seems to leave a lot of room for improvement on the conversion-side for most e-commerce brands. Here are five areas and associated tactics that can help increase conversion rates:
Create Strong Calls-To-Action
A call-to-action (CTA) is the thing you’re trying to get your customer to do on your website. In the case of e-commerce, it’s almost always to get a visitor to purchase an item or add an item to a shopping cart. However, you’d be surprised at how many e-commerce websites don’t make it super-simple to find their ‘buy now’ CTA. There are four primary things to keep in mind regarding your CTA:
The first is the size of the button. You want it to be large enough that it contrasts against body type and other links. Your ‘buy now’ button should be clearly visible to the user.
The second is color. You’ll certainly want to avoid anything that’s unattractive, but it’s fine to use a highly contrasted color from your brand’s general palette. Many websites will choose an ‘action’ color and use the exclusively for CTAs across their website.
The third is location. You’ll want to have the button close to your product image, but also at the end of the ‘options flow’ a visitor might go through. The ‘options flow’ includes all of the possible options they can choose when buying the item (i.e. size, quantity, color, etc.)
The last is wording. You want to be sure you’re using language that clearly tells your visitor that they’re purchasing this item or adding it to their cart.
Customers need to have confidence when they arrive at your website and are considering making a purchase. They want to know that they’ll get exactly what they pay for or better. As an e-commerce brand, you’ll want to convey that your company can be trusted. Here are four tactics for conveying trust on your e-commerce website:
5) Quality of Design
Having a poorly designed website can be a huge detriment to conversion. Major retailers such as BestBuy and Starbucks who invest millions of dollars per year on their websites raise consumer expectations regarding their e-commerce experience. Luckily, with e-commerce platforms such as Shopify offering beautifully-designed, very affordable, pre-made themes there is no reason for your website to not be able to compete design-wise with other ecommerce brands. Having a design that meets consumer’s typical expectations is key to gaining their trust.
6) Offer Easy Support
Adding accessible phone numbers, live chat, retail locations and anything else that can offer a human connection through your e-commerce website is a sure-fire way of building customer trust. These channels provide the security that if something went wrong with an order or if the customer had a question; your company is readily available. Tools such as Olark make adding live chat easy.
7) Customer Testimonials
People become more confident in a product they know other people have purchased. By highlighting customer testimonials, reviews and product-shares on social media, you add ‘social proof’ that your product is something other people have trusted. Tools such as Candid make adding customer photos from social media channels easy.
8) Press Coverage and Awards
Similar to customer testimonials, highlighting media, awards and industry coverage provides the ‘professional social proof’ that can often build added confidence in the mind of a potential customer.
Cater to Mobile Customers
According to a report issued by Custora, mobile e-commerce sales have risen from $2.2 billion in 2010 to $42.8 billion in 2013 and set to hit over $50 billion in 2014. In addition, Shopify recently reported that they’ve seen traffic levels across all of their 120K stores now at 50.3% from mobile visitors. It’s clear that having a website that performs well on mobile devices, or is ‘mobile responsive’ is absolutely essential in competing in today’s e-commerce market. When thinking about making your website mobile responsive, here are a few tactics to consider:
9) Design for Screens and Not Devices
Mobile device manufacturers seem to be releasing new models with new features on almost a monthly basis. Trying to accommodate on a device-by-device basis quickly becomes a nightmare for any web designer. Rather than using tools or tactics that are specific to devices (i.e. iPhone vs Nexus vs Galaxy, etc), consider designing your website to change based on screensize or ‘viewports and breakpoints’. Frontend development frameworks such as Bootstrap andFoundation make coding responsive websites easier.
10) User Context
The best way to approach designing a mobile experience for your users is to put yourself in the context in which they’d be visiting your website on a mobile device. Are they looking up your retail location while on the train? Are they trying to renew a purchase they’ve made in the past when they noticed they ran out of your product? Are they looking to do some comparison shopping of your product in retail or online. Thinking through these different contexts can be a helpful way to craft your mobile responsive design.
11) Simplifying Your Design
Building on the idea of ‘user context’, you want to provide a mobile experience that is as simple as possible. Mobile devices naturally have smaller screens and therefore more limited real estate to convey information about your product or company. Some of the fun/sexy things you can do on the desktop version of your website might not make sense or even work properly on a mobile device. Don’t be afraid to simplify the experience and focus on matching the context by which your visitor has arrived at your website.
Deliver a High-Performance Experience
According to an article by KISSmetrics, a one-second delay in page response / load time can result in as much as a 7% reduction in conversions. The article also states that 47% of consumers expect a web page to load in 2 seconds or less. This means there is an incredibly small window to get your website up-and-running in the hands of your consumer. Here are a few tactics that can help in website performance and keep your e-commerce load speeds close to the 2-second mark.
12) Test Your Load Speed
13) CDN for Media
One of the easiest ways to address a slow-loading website would be to use a content delivery network (CDN) to host all of your media. A CDN is basically a large group of servers across the world that can better serve of media by sending signals from servers closer to your customer’s location as opposed to a single central server. Many e-commerce platforms such as Shopify have baked-in CDN capabilities. Two very popular CDN services include CloudFlare and Amazon’s CloudFront.
14) Minimize Expensive Code
As mentioned above, when running a load speed test, you’ll see a breakdown of how long it takes each individual file on your website to load. This breakdown will point out any particularly slow-loading files. This is your opportunity to trim those files and remove any ‘expensive’ code. Some ‘quick wins’ in cleaning up your code includes compressing CSS/JS files, using GZIP compression for files and minimizing the number of images loaded.
When you’ve finally got a visitor to add an item to their cart and approach the final phase of buying, you want to make that experience as streamlined as possible for them. Although many e-commerce platforms will restrict developers from modifying the checkout process too much, there are a few tactics that can be used to help make purchasing as easy as possible for your customer.
15) Add a Mini-Cart
Some customers want to poke around your site and throw a bunch of different items in their checkout. One way to keep them engaged in the website during their buying experience is to add a ‘mini-cart’. A mini-cart is basically an icon in the top-right of the customer’s screen that tallies the total items in their cart and displays summarized information about those products. Having this mini-cart gives them both a reminder of what they’ve already added in their cart and quick access to checkout.
16) Upsell at the Shopping Cart
When the customer is ready to review their shopping cart and proceed to checkout, don’t be afraid to make one final push for additional products. This moment in particular is powerful as you know the customer is in a state of mind where they’re ready to buy. A well-targeted recommended product, accessory or other upsell could be an easy decision for them and quick extra cash for your e-commerce company.
17) Offer Guest Checkout
Not all customers want to go through the process of setting up an account when checking out. It’s certainly valuable for their future interaction with your website (i.e. order history, shipping information, etc.) but don’t force your customers to setting up the account if they’d rather have a speedier transaction.
All of the above tactics have the potential of increasing conversion on your e-commerce website. Prior to implementing these tactics, I’d highly recommend reviewing your analytics platforms to ensure you’re able to accurately track current conversions and potential conversion increases. Every e-commerce company should have Google Analytics with e-commerce integration configured, but it might also be worth adding a more sophisticated ‘conversion funnel analysis’ tool such as Mixpanel to your stack. In addition, consider using an A/B testing tool to more granularly measure the impact these changes have on your conversion rates. Two popular platforms include Visual Website Optimizer andOptimizely. Finally, although we’ve spent this whole article discussing how to improve conversion, be careful not to read too much into your site-wide conversion rates without digging deeper into channel-specific and product-specific conversion as recommended in the this article.